By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac
It's one of those good news, bad news situations. The good news: Trash and recycling rates probably won't be going up as much in Atherton as had been feared.
The bad news? Rates that already went up in July will go up again, with the total of the two increases meaning many Atherton residents' garbage bills will have doubled in a little more than six months.
It seems the town had for several years charged its residents less for garbage service than the actual cost. The undercharges left the town with an overdue bill to Allied Waste for $337,000.
The town has known for some time that rates would have to increase dramatically. But a public outcry last year kept the council from increasing rates as much as was needed to fix the problem. Rates went up an average of 45 percent in July and residents started paying for any green-waste cans after the first two. Previously, the green-waste cans were free.
At its Wednesday night (Oct. 19) meeting, the council heard a report on the issue from Vice Mayor Bill Widmer, who had researched the rates with Councilman Jerry Carlson and Interim City Manager John Danielson.
Mr. Widmer said notices were sent to all customers with the "worst case scenario" the highest increase that would be needed to pay back Allied Waste and pay for higher costs under the current Recology contract.
But part of the money owed to Allied should come from the town's general funds, not customers, he said. That's because not too many years ago the town charged too much for garbage pickups for a few years and got some money back from Allied. That money, Mr. Widmer said, should go back to Allied.
The rates will be set by the council at its next meeting, on Nov. 19, after a public hearing.
The proposed rates are:
■ 20-gallon can, $29, a 45 percent increase.
■ 32-gallon can, $57, a 30 percent increase.
■ 64-gallon can, $115, a 39 percent increase.
■ 96-gallon can, $170, a 36 percent increase.
■ Green-waste carts: first two free (as now); $10 each for third and fourth carts; and $15 each for five carts or more.
Customers (but only the person responsible for paying the bill) can file a written protest against the rate increases and deliver or mail them to Town Hall by Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. or during the City Council meeting. If more than half of customers protest, the council is not allowed to approve the proposed rates.